The best form of bath is either the tub or the shower bath; and the cooler the water, provided that you warm up to it quickly and pleasantly, the greater the tonic effect, the more exhilaration and pleasure you will get out of it, and the more it will harden your skin against cold. But it should never under any circumstances be any cooler than you can readily and pleasantly react, or warm up to, during the bath and afterward.
The habit of plunging into a great tub of ice-cold water all winter long, except for people of vigorous constitutions and active habits, may often do quite as much harm as good. Have your bath water just cool enough to give you a slight, pleasant shock, as you plunge into it, or turn it on, so that you will enjoy the glow and sense of exhilaration that follows; and you will get all the good there is out of the cold bath, and none of the harm. By beginning with moderately cool water you will find that you come to enjoy it cooler and cooler.
If a bath-room is not at hand, a large wash-bowl of cool, or cold, water into which you can dip your hands and splash well over the upper half of your body every morning, and once or twice a week all over your body, will keep your skin clean and vigorous. If you cannot warm up properly after a cool bath, there is something wrong about your habits of life; and you had better change them, and keep changing them, until you find you can enjoy it. For some delicate children, a quick plunge into, or splash with, very hot water in the morning will give somewhat the same tonic effect as stronger ones can get from cold water.
Warm baths are best taken at night, just before going to bed, though the danger of catching cold after them on account of their “opening up the pores of the skin,” has been very greatly exaggerated. They have, however, a relaxing effect upon the skin, and take out an undue amount of the natural oil which nature provides for its oiling and softening, so that, except for special reasons, it is best not to take them oftener than once, or twice, a week.